Blog: Frugal is fun – How to adopt a frugal mindset

Published on 18 November 2020

Photo of candle, pumpkin, spinach, daisies and packets of seeds on a table

Yes, being frugal is about watching your money and sticking to a budget. But it’s also a really great way to shift your mindset and find joy in the simple things that don’t require money.

We may live in a consumer society, but on the flip side we also know that money isn’t the key to happiness. So how can we find that sweet spot where we have enough money to cover our bills and home expenses and also discover contentment in pottering in the garden, reading a good book and enjoying a homemade meal?

Many people who live the frugal lifestyle aim to spend less than they earn so that they can either work less or retire early. That may be the end goal for some but others are simply seeking a life where their happiness is found in experiences and mindfulness.

Here’s a few ways to live more frugally and find joy in the simple, free things:

  • Create a budget: Being aware of what you earn and where your money goes is the first step. Granted, it can be a confronting experience, but on the flip side it’s also quite empowering. If you need some guidance, grab a copy of the Australian book The Barefoot Investor: The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need. It’s a simple and straightforward guide to taking control of your finances and it includes advice on seeking financial counselling if you need personal guidance, particularly in regard to clearing debt. 

  • Be inspired by frugal folk: Thankfully there are so many resources out there. Rhonda Hetzel is a retired journalist and author of the blog Down to Earth. She has two books, Down to Earth and The Simple Home: A month-by-month guide to self-reliance productivity and contentment. She discusses every aspect of frugal living from money to gardening, meal planning and sourcing second hand, and she does so in a kind, friendly tone that is both inclusive and inspiring. 

  • Visit your local library: The library is a fantastic resource within the community and provides so much more than books to borrow. Connect with like-minded readers, join community groups and borrow books on gardening, mending and making do - all of the things that will give you the pleasure of experience and skill without costing you money. 

  • Grow your greens: The most expensive vegetables to buy are salad greens and herbs. Ironically, they’re also the easiest to grow. You don’t need to embark on a full veggie patch to make sure you can make a few salads each week. Cos lettuce and rocket grows well in pots on your balcony, as do herbs, chives, parsley and rosemary. If you need guidance, head to your library or visit Gardening Australia on Facebook and ABC iView.

  • Know your habits: Did you know there are now scientists whose work focuses solely on our habits? Our habits say a lot about us and can help us understand what we can do to let go of old habits and create new ones. Two great books on the topic are Atomic Habits by James Clear and Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. 

  • Be materialistic: Pardon? Isn’t frugality all about consuming less? Yes, exactly. And when I encourage you to be more materialistic, I’m encouraging you to take good care of what you own so it lasts and lasts and lasts. And when you need to replace something, search for second hand and always opt for quality, even if it costs you a bit more.

  • Be aware of frivolous spending: The little things you purchase on a whim often cost so much more than you think they do. These little things could be a drink at the service station, a magazine at the supermarket checkout, ice creams on the weekend or takeaway when you can’t be bothered cooking. Without realising you could be spending hundreds of dollars a month on little things that were purchased without much thought. Granted, it’s a habit but it’s also quite easy to fix. Shop less, meal plan more, plan takeaway nights so they’re only one a week/fortnight, and be aware of your bank balance. Check it regularly and watch where your money is going. 

  • Plan a no-spend weekend: This is a great family activity and a wonderful way to get the kids involved in frugal living. Can you go a whole weekend without spending any money and still have fun? Bushwalks, picnics, beach roaming and at home baking are all great ways to immerse yourself in nature, stay healthy and not open your wallet.


Join the discussion

What are the steps you've taken to live a more frugal lifestyle? Join the conversation here.